TRAI Releases Consultation Paper for Regulating OTT Services

On July 7, 2023, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a consultation paper on the regulatory mechanism for over-the-top (OTT) communication services and the selective banning of OTT services.

It highlights that telecom service providers (TSPs) in India must secure a telecommunication service license under Section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 in order to offer telecommunication services to consumers through telecommunication networks. However, OTT communication service providers offer services such as voice calls, messaging, etc. without obtaining any such license and adhering to obligations which apply to TSPs.

In a letter dated September 7, 2022, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) requested TRAI to reconsider its recommendations on the regulatory framework for OTT communication services, which were based on its analysis and the public comments received on the consultation paper released back in November 2018. The DoT also asked TRAI to propose a suitable regulatory mechanism for OTTs, including considerations related to the selective banning of OTT services.

In the said letter, the DoT stated, “Given the tremendous growth of OTT services in recent times and their maturity, it is essential to comprehensively assess various aspects of these services, including regulatory, economic, security, privacy, and safety concerns”.

The consultation paper has been published pursuant to this letter. The paper seeks input from stakeholders on matters such as the definition of OTT services, the reasonable classification of OTT services based on an intelligible differentia, and perspectives on regulatory, economic, security, privacy, safety, quality of service, and consumer grievance redressal aspects of OTT communication services compared to licensed telecommunication services in India.

Stakeholders are invited to submit written comments on the issues raised in the consultation paper by August 4, 2023. Counter comments can be submitted by August 18, 2023.